(StatePoint) You’ve selected your insurance plan for the year. Now, it’s time to start using your benefits, beginning with an annual wellness exam.
An annual wellness exam with a health care provider is important for everyone, but especially for older adults. As we age, we are more likely to develop chronic health conditions, according to Dr. J.B. Sobel, chief medical officer for Cigna Medicare, which serves hundreds of thousands of older adults through its products. An annual wellness exam can help detect potential health issues early so they can be addressed before they worsen, he added.
“By meeting with your primary care provider early in the year, you can highlight the things that are important to you, and work together to develop a plan for your care for the year ahead,” Sobel said. “This will ensure you live each day with vitality, happiness and improved health.”
Many providers will reach out to schedule an annual wellness exam. If your provider doesn’t contact you, make sure to call them.
A number of annual check-ups are available at no extra cost to those with Medicare. They include a “Welcome to Medicare” visit for customers who have just reached Medicare eligibility and an “Annual Wellness Exam” for existing customers. Many Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offer more extensive annual visits at no extra cost. Some even offer incentives for completing a visit. Talk with your provider and Medicare insurer about your benefits.
Each annual exam may be a little different. Regardless of the type, Sobel offers the following tips to ensure you get the most from your visit.
Prepare. Before you go, write down anything you’d like to discuss with your health care provider, including changes to your health over the past year. Bring your prescription and over-the-counter medications with you. Ask plenty of questions and take notes. You might even want to take along a family member, trusted friend or caregiver to ensure you understand everything your provider has shared.
Be open and honest. It’s tempting to make things look rosier than they are when talking to your health care provider, but minimizing what you are feeling can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or prescription. Speak openly about unhealthy habits, like smoking or lack of exercise. Your provider won’t judge you. Being honest is the only way your health care provider can help you reach your goals.
Mind mental health. Your emotional health impacts your physical health. Many people think depression is a natural part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to your doctor if you are feeling sad, anxious or hopeless. Treatments, such as talk therapy, medication or both, may be covered by Medicare.
Monitor medications. Adults age 65 and older tend to take more medications than other age groups, increasing the risk for adverse reactions, such as cognitive impairment and falls. It’s a good idea to take your medications to your annual wellness exam and discuss any potential problems or side effects you’re experiencing. Don’t forget about over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or nutritional supplements you take.
Schedule screenings and get vaccines. There are a number of important health screenings and vaccines that you may need depending on your age and gender, such as colon cancer screening, bone density test, mammogram, flu shot or COVID-19 immunization. Ask your provider about the screenings and vaccines you’ve had already and schedule any you need as soon as possible. You may even be able to do that before you leave the office. Also, don’t forget to visit your eye doctor and dentist. These visits are covered by many MA plans as well. Find out more at www.cignamedicare.com.
“You wouldn’t drive your vehicle without proper preventive maintenance, so please don’t ignore preventive maintenance for your most prized possession – your health,” Sobel said. “An annual wellness exam is a great place to start!”